Why has gymnast Simone Biles surpassed her sport?Mental Health
In terms of Byers’ achievements, perhaps those achievements in the Tokyo Olympics are her most impressive.
How do athletes surpass their sports? Complete domination in their field must be a factor. Another possibility is to take a stand for something and use it to push us forward as a society. Last week, in order to protect her health, Simone Biles withdrew from several Olympic competitions. She is the most decorated gymnast in history, and she did just that.
After a serious landing from a malfunctioning vault, Byers decided to withdraw from the women’s team gymnastics finals, instead cheering for her teammates on the sidelines. At the subsequent press conference, she explained that she had withdrawn due to mental health reasons. Later we learned that she had a case of “twisties”-a dangerous phenomenon in which gymnasts deprived them of all sense of direction in aerial performances. Given the complexity of the operations performed by Biles, continuing operations in this situation may be disastrous.
Although little is known about “distortion”, experts believe that they can happen when gymnasts feel stressed and overthinking are usually automatic actions that confuse the brain and lose proprioception or positional awareness.
Byers has many reasons to feel pressure. She described the burden of these Olympics, where people generally expect her to win five gold medals because she carries the “weight of the world” on her shoulders. The COVID-19 pandemic cast a shadow over the Tokyo Olympics and exacerbated the pressure that Olympic athletes usually feel. Due to the postponement, after a year of hard training, they are now participating in the competition without the support of spectators and family members.
Former US gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of Byers had a profound and adverse effect on her mental health. As the vast majority of black athletes in white sports, she also had to endure racism throughout her career. She said that treatment and medication have always been helpful, but it is not surprising that her mental state in Tokyo is not good.
Although she was widely praised for her decision to quit, the unhelpful attitude still exists. British journalist Pierce Morgan’s life mission seems to be to eliminate the mental health challenges of women of color. She described her withdrawal as “a joke” and “weakness.” Texas Deputy Attorney General Aaron Weitz described her as “selfish” and “national embarrassment.”
Middle-aged white men insist that women of color sacrifice their health to obey their demands. This is completely sinister. Maybe they should review Biles’s record of competing with broken toes and kidney stones before accusing her of weakness. Or get acquainted with the tragedy of Russian gymnast Elena Mukhina, who, despite her unhealthy body, was paralyzed when she was forced to compete, and then label her embarrassing.
Although the U.S. Olympics and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have come forward to support Byers (in stark contrast to the French Open executive’s recent treatment of tennis superstar Naomi Osaka), sports institutions still have a lot of work to do in protecting mental health. Doing athletes.
The stress of professional sports and its impact on mental health is well known-34% of elite athletes are considered to suffer from depression and anxiety. The physical and psychological needs of training and competition, the fear of injury and destruction, and the long distance from supporting family and friends are all factors, as well as strict censorship by the public and the media. Elite athletes are also less likely to seek help for mental health issues because they will be subject to stigma, concerns about weakness, and sports managers’ reactions.
The International Olympic Committee has taken some measures to solve this problem, including providing psychologists in the Olympic Village and setting up a 24-hour “mental health” helpline for athletes in 70 languages. But this is the same Olympics as the fencing athlete Alen Hadzic (Alen Hadzic) was allowed to participate in, even though he was accused of sexual assault on multiple occasions. At the same Olympic Games, swimming caps designed specifically for black athletes were banned. It is best for the IOC to review their policies on sexual safety and racial equality to “create an environment that supports mental health,” as they suggested in their 2019 consensus statement on mental health.
More broadly, Byers’ decision to withdraw should be a wake-up call to protect the mental health of athletes, lest they reach their limits. Many athletes are talking about their struggle with mental illness, but few sacrifice victory for their own happiness. The sports industry and individual athletes should be inspired by Biles, in her words “putting mental health first.” Encourage open dialogue, take a proactive approach to screening for mental illness, and make treatment at all levels more accessible, and across all sports may have a major impact.
In terms of Byers’ achievements, perhaps those in Tokyo are her most impressive: bravely putting one’s health above the expectations of others. Show fans all over the world that health is the most important thing regardless of the stakes. When she knew she couldn’t do her best, she selflessly let her teammates take over. Stay and provide encouragement and help them win medals. Her grace in handling all these consequences matches her best gymnastic skills. If the measure of a championship is their performance in losses and victories, Byers has shown us why she is the greatest gymnast of all time.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.